Readmit Zimbabwe to Commonwealth, Lord Loomba urges
It would be better to work with Zimbabwe within the Commonwealth to address its continuing failings in democracy and human rights than to ostracise the country, crossbench Peer Lord
Loomba told the House of Lords in a Grand Committee debate today [12 January 2023].
Noting that humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported continuing human rights violations since President Mugabe left office
a little over five years ago, the philanthropic peer nevertheless felt there is a significant difference since 2003, when Zimbabwe walked out of the Commonwealth. Agreeing that human rights violations cannot be swept under the carpet, he felt the question is whether exclusion from the Commonwealth is useful in achieving improvements – “and I, my Lords,” he said, “am firmly of the opinion that it is not.”
“For the Commonwealth to foster improvements in democracy and human rights, its members must be willing to work together towards that goal. The reason Zimbabwe walked away in 2003 is that it had no intention of doing so, and there was no prospect of a process that could see the suspension lifted. For all the questions that hang over Zimbabwe’s current record, I do not believe that to be the case now,” he said.
Since 1995, five countries have faced periods of suspension for failing to uphold the values set out in the Singapore and Harare Declarations – including Zimbabwe, which withdrew altogether in 2003 when its suspension was extended.
The Commonwealth, Lord Loomba pointed out, is founded on what for most members is a painful past, and turns it into a force for good. Understanding wrongful behaviour – both intended and unconscious – creates the opportunity to put it right. That applies to all of
us. For the Commonwealth to foster improvements in democracy and human rights, its members must be willing to work together towards that goal. The reason Zimbabwe walked away in 2003 is that it had no intention of doing so, and there was no prospect of a process that could see the suspension lifted. For all the questions that hang over Zimbabwe’s current record, I do not believe that to be the case now.
Lord Loomba reminded the House of Lords that “in 2021, the British government expressed concerns about democracy in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda and Tanzania.” In almost two thirds of Commonwealth countries, he pointed out, homosexuality is illegal – mostly based on laws inherited from Britain. 26 member countries have blasphemy laws, while
16 million people across the Commonwealth are estimated to be trapped in modern
On the positive side of the ledger, he said, “Zimbabwe last year passed a law giving equal inheritance rights to women in common law marriages.” This development benefits widows, whose cause is espoused by Lord Loomba’s charity, The Loomba Foundation.
“If Zimbabwe – a country with as much claim as any to have suffered from its colonial past – wishes to be readmitted to the Commonwealth on the basis of its values and its charter,” Lord Loomba concluded, “we should welcome that as a positive step and work with Zimbabwe as
we do with other members to achieve progress.”
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Information for editors
Lord Raj Loomba CBE is a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords and Chairman Trustee of The Loomba Foundation, a UN-accredited specialist NGO established to alleviate the plight of widows and their dependents worldwide and to eradicate discrimination and injustice against widows.
The Loomba Foundation was established in 1997. In 2005 Lord Loomba proposed International Widows Day as a global day of action to eradicate injustice and discrimination against widows. In December 2010, after a five-year campaign, the proposal was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly and since then International Widows Day has focused worldwide attention on the cause each year on 23 June. In 2016 The Loomba Foundation published the World Widows Report – the first comprehensive global study with country by country information about the plight of widows, one of the most marginalised and unfairly disadvantaged groups of humanity.
Lord Loomba is Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development and a Vice-President of Barnardo’s.
To find out more about the work of The Loomba Foundation, visit